Facebook shuts down fake news sites in Bangladesh ahead of elections

Facebook is closing several fake news sites in Bangladesh that have been spreading false information about the opposition party in the country ahead of next week's national elections, the social media company told the Associated Press.

There are fifteen sites in total, nine of which are meant to resemble real news sites. The other six are fake personal accounts spreading false propaganda, Facebook told the AP.

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Nathaniel Gleicher, the head of cybersecurity policy at Facebook, told the news outlet that the sites were created by people with ties to the Bangladesh government and will be shut down by Thursday evening.

“These are fake but look like independent news outlets,” Gleicher said, adding that the sites were each “pro-government and anti-opposition.”

The terminating of the sites were “prompted by both external and internal evidence, including a tip from Graphika, a threat intelligence company that we work with,” Gleicher added. He said the investigations into the sites began last month.

The stories reported by the sites included false information about turmoil in the inner circle of opposition leader Khaleda Zia, according to the report.

Gleicher said the sites were "a small network involving Bangladesh" but added that shutting down them down "is very important for us." He added that Facebook “does not want people or organizations creating networks of accounts to mislead others about who they are, or what they are doing.”

Bangladesh will hold national elections on Dec. 30, when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will seek her fourth term.

Facebook has previously come under scrutiny for false information being spread on its platform ahead of key elections, including in the U.S. prior to the 2016 presidential election.